By Pras Gustanto, Staff Writer

Goats have been given negative associations in most of Western culture. The Greeks envisioned their half-man half-goat nature god Pan as a lecherous deity. Christianity also considered goats to be a symbol of evil, with people in the Middle Ages believing that goats whispered dirty sentiments into the ears of saints.

For modern-day Ugandan women, however, goats are a source of life that provides sustenance for families. The utilities the goats provide enable women to form their own small businesses and allow them to save enough money to send their children to school.

This past Wednesday, George Mason University’s Women and Gender Studies Center invited a family of farmers to bring their goats to North Plaza to raise money and awareness for the socio-economic plights of low-income Ugandan women.

It is all part of an awareness-raising joint effort with the Women’s Center for Job Creation (WCFJC), a non-governmental organization based in Minnesota and Uganda.

David Keller and Melanie Thatcher, a farming family from Nokesville, Va., provided the goats.

Students and passersby participated by donating money into the effort’s money collection jar. It takes $50 to sponsor a goat to Ugandan women.

“What happens is that the WCFJC will show them how to use these goats in ways that could bring more money to their families,” said Bessie Vaughan, a senior history major who was a representative at the event. “[It] helps them to be more economically stable . . . they will learn how to milk [the goat] or shave it to sell products to the market.”

Since the project started in October 2008, 48 goats have been purchased.

Thanks to this project as well as the various other efforts of the WCFJC, as many as 200 women and their families have been empowered and have started on their way out of poverty.

Judeo-Christian culture may have used goats to drive sins out of a village; but for Ugandan women, goats are a way to bring salvation back into the village.