Representatives of the 10 Arab nations at IBBY’s first Arab Regional Meeting at the House of Wisdom in Sharjah. Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: In a bid to advance the literary and cultural contributions of the Arab IBBY chapters, bring more nations in the region into the IBBY’s fold and boost regional collaboration in supporting the development of children’s literature, the UAE Board on Books for Young People (UAEBBY) hosted IBBY’s first Arab Regional Meeting at the House of Wisdom in Sharjah, bring together representatives from 10 countries, including three existing and seven prospective IBBY members.

The meeting reinforces the UAEBBY’s leading efforts to strengthen the Arab world’s presence and contributions to IBBY’s overarching objectives. In the lead up to this meeting, the entity collaborated with the International Board and communicated with cultural ministries and relevant institutions across all participating countries to facilitate their engagement.

Marwa Al Aqroubi, President of the UAEBBY, chaired the meeting, which was attended by Carolina Ballester, Executive Director of IBBY; and representatives from IBBY’s Arab chapters, including Nadia El Kohly, Egypt; Hadil Miqdadi, Jordan; Shereen Kreidieh, Lebanon; in addition to representatives from seven Arab countries looking to join IBBY.

The participation of non-member countries, including Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Kuwait, Iraq, Qatar, and Oman, reflects their keenness to support and advance children’s and YA literature in their countries and in the Arab world as a whole.

The meeting introduced participants, especially non-members, to IBBY’s vision, goals, and various activities and initiatives in promoting and developing children’s and young adults’ literature among member countries and beyond.

Realising common regional goals

In her keynote speech, Al Aqroubi recounted the UAEBBY’s role in developing the children’s and young adult book industry in the UAE and the region, lauding the cooperation they have enjoyed with IBBY that have given birth to leading projects and programmes that serve common cultural and human development goals envisioned by His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammad AlQasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, and and also reinforces the support of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs (SCFA), towards investing in young generations through expanding their knowledge and skills.

“We are proud that the UAEBBY is hosting IBBY’s first Arab Regional Meeting. This gathering is the fruit of 13 years of dedicated efforts, which were started by Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, our founder and honorary president, with the founding of the UAEBBY. The meeting coincides with the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival, one of the largest and most important festivals dedicated to children and youth in the region and the world”.

“This meeting presents a valuable opportunity for networking and learning, as well as discussing ways to collaborate and partner to enhance children’s and YA literature in the region. We’ve discussed innovative solutions to resolve the challenges faced by the regional industry, in line with Sharjah’s vision to advance it and also build cultural bridges between peoples and civilisations around the world,” she added.

During the meeting, representatives of IBBY’s Arab chapters expressed their appreciation for the continuous support of the UAEBBY. They also presented an overview of their achievements during the past years and the challenges that require practical and effective solutions to advance their role in promoting a reading culture and expanding the reach of children’s and youth books to a broader audience. They stressed that despite their difficulties, especially in organising required funding to develop their initiatives and achieve their goals, the cooperation with IBBY and its members and learning from their individual experiences and expertise has helped them overcome several challenges.