Barbara Moser-Mercer: She’s the World’s Educator

August 24 - On The Dot
FIRST THOUGHT: Living in the Past

I recently went down the genealogy rabbit hole, diving deep into my past. While I’ve yet to find my connection to long-lost queens or Mayflower pilgrims, it’s been fascinating to explore the lives of my ancestors. On most census records of days past, women routinely described their occupation in terms of domestic work, or “keeping the house.” And with a dozen or so family members often living under one roof, I can only imagine the back-breaking labor women endured completing their household chores. I’m grateful for these gritty ladies in my lineage, who I’m sure would be jubilant at our strides toward equality.


While women may have won many battles throughout the centuries, we’ve yet to win the war. This is especially true when it comes to educating girls. As of 2014, there were 61 million girls of primary and lower-secondary-school age who were not able to attend school. While some of these girls lacked access to education as a result of living in conflict-affected countries, boys were two and a half times more likely than girls to attend school in these areas. Additionally, girls were 90 percent more likely to not attend secondary school than girls in countries unaffected by conflict.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Barbara Moser-Mercer, Founder and Director of InZone

When girls aren’t encouraged—or worse, forbidden—from going to school, our global community suffers. Educating everyone isn’t simply a feminist issue; it’s just plain smart. That’s why Barbara Moser-Mercer has made it her life’s mission to help solve this unjust dilemma and bring education—specifically higher education—to girls and women in communities affected by conflict and crisis.

Barbara is the founder and director of InZone, a research center housed at the University of Geneva’s Global Studies Institute in Switzerland that pioneers innovative approaches to multilingual communication and higher education by designing, developing and scientifically validating learner-centered and technology-supported teaching models.

At the heart of Barbara’s work is the concept that communication solves problems. Think of it this way: If some stranger waltzed into, say, your hurricane-ravaged neighborhood barking demands and seemingly having no regard for your upended life, how likely would you be to welcome him with open arms and obey every command? Not very, right? That’s precisely why when bringing education to people in global communities affected by war, political strife and poverty, InZone instead focuses on building the communication skills of interpreters, taking a multilingual and multicultural approach.

Barbara, a trained cognitive psychologist, is also trilingual and has extensive knowledge of how powerful language can be. She has directed the translation and interpreting departments at several universities, been an interpreter for the United Nations and worked in close collaboration with many humanitarian organizations to bring InZone’s digital learning models to refugee camps, conflict-affected villages and fragile communities throughout the world. In fact, the South By Southwest Conference awarded Barbara its Community Service Award for her work developing InZone Higher Education Spaces in refugee camps in the Horn of Africa and in the Middle East and North Africa regions.

Barbara admits that in order to do this important work, she must remain optimistic, a characteristic that makes a big impact. In fact, while her expertise helps inspire those around her, her soothing demeanor, understanding of local cultures and use of supportive language embolden the people she’s helping—many girls and women among them—with the belief that they can not only learn, but have the right to an education.


Today’s quote comes from Kathy Calvin, president and CEO of the United Nations Foundation. She said:

“Girls are one of the most powerful forces for change in the world. When their rights are recognized, their needs are met and their voices are heard, they drive positive change in their families, their communities and the world.”

This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.

To learn more about our conversation, check us out at and talk to us @OnTheDotWoman on Twitter and Instagram. We’d love to hear your voice.

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