For an African child, marriage ranks high on the list of life achievements. Parents and relatives will start talking to you about it when you are still in high school in a bid to ‘prepare’ you for it. Pressure will steadily mount from these initial conversations and, as you get older, they will turn into full-blown lectures on responsibility, culture and tradition. There are only two options when it comes to dealing with the unrelenting pressure: relent and marry, or affect a nonchalant attitude to the subject when it comes up.
That is, unless you are Oxford student Lulu Jemimah.
“I made the commitment to see this life through, at whatever cost,” says her GoFund.me page, ambiguously named “This is my love story”.
She goes on to speak about the things that give her joy and her achievements so far: “Last year, I applied to three UK universities, was admitted, but without funding. Then I applied and was accepted into the two-year Master’s in Creative Writing programme at Oxford. I could not believe that they had chosen me. I still can’t believe it.”
However, even with all this going for her, Jemimah laments that “people ask me what my ‘plan’ is; when I plan to get married, have children and start a family.”
“My father wrote my wedding speech when I turned 16. Every birthday, my mother prays for me and, in recent years, this has included a plea for a good husband. Someone to take care of me. I decided to put them all at ease,” she continued.
To this end, the incorrigible master’s student, upon returning to Uganda for her birthday, rented a dress, sent out invites to those close to her, walked through a pub to the traditional wedding march and even gave a wedding toast in which she explained her decision.
However, unlike an actual wedding, the entire spectacle cost Jemimah a mere £2 in transport, as the rest was complimentary or gifts from friends.
“Marriage is an expression of love and commitment. But for many people back home, it is still considered the only way to guarantee a woman’s financial security. These are all things I want. The only difference is I am more confident of getting them from one of these two gowns: wedding gown (sans groom) and Oxford’s academic gown.”
Jemimah has overcome several seemingly insurmountable obstacles to get in and stay at Oxford University. She has sought funding and legal counsel and has explored every possible solution to keep her in training. “Writing is how I make sense of the world. This is my love and commitment.”
And thus begins Lulu Jemimah’s love story.