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Bodour Al Qasimi had also served as IPA's vice president between 2019 and 2020 Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: During Bodour Al Qasimi’s two-year term as President of the International Publishers Association (IPA), and the two years preceding her term as the vice-president of the IPA between 2019-2020, she succeeded in executing a great number of commendable achievements.

These included bringing many new publishers’ associations to the organisation, numerous impressive initiatives being launched, inspiring the vision of diversity and inclusivity to be adopted, expanding the scope of work being conducted as well as promoting the publishing industry as one of the main pillars of sustainable development in low-income countries.

Throughout her presidency of the IPA, Al Qasimi served as a role model, leading the global publishing sector during a very challenging period during the pandemic and shaping the IPA’s future. Her efforts have brought about a paradigm shift in the publishing industry world as she engaged many marginalised communities and countries, allowing them to be key players in the industry globally.

Empowering women publishers

Bodour Al Qasimi’s role as president represented a precedent in itself, as she was the first Arab woman and the second woman in history to assume the presidency of the IPA since it was established in 1869. Not only did she help to bring about change at the association, but also in the world and the publishing industry as a whole, combating the prevailing culture and stereotypes about women, particularly that of Arab women.

She also empowered women in the industry, launching the ‘PublisHer’ initiative, which is a platform for promoting and assisting female publishers. The impact she has made during her reign will echo into the future as the next two terms of presidents will also be women, namely, Karine Pansa and Gvantsa Jobava.

Moreover, Bodour Al Qasimi had a strong role in women’s empowerment across the globe by being an excellent example of a leader during difficult times. While participating in international conferences and book fairs, she promoted gender equality and equal opportunity, calling for more cooperation among female publishers to exchange expertise and ensure a successful career for themselves and their peers.

Rescue plans for publishing associations

Bodour Al Qasimi transformed the challenges posed by the pandemic on the publishing sector, which hindered its growth, into great opportunities to shape the future of the industry, as she instilled the concept of partnership between publishers from different cultures.

These partnerships resulted in issuing the report, ‘From Response to Recovery 2020-2021.’ It included surveys and case studies, gathering the opinions of a number of representatives from the book industry. IPA’s team, led by Bodour Al Qasimi, communicated with more than 33 publishing associations around the world, representing 70 per cent of the global publishing market, worth around $90 billion annually. Surveys and communications were geographically distributed in the following manner: Asia 40 per cent, Africa 27 per cent, and Europe and the Americas 17 per cent each.

Bodour at Lisbon book fair Image Credit: Supplied

Bodour Al Qasimi wanted the report to be a reference for IPA’s exerted efforts, aiming to enhance the adaptability and sustainability of the publishing sector, as well as to learn from the difficulties that publishers went through globally. As a result, the ‘International Sustainable Publishing and Industry Resilience’ (InSPIRe) initiative was launched based on these survey reports.

Al Qasimi made 40 on-site visits to identify with the challenges that face publishers to ensure that the findings and proposed solutions through the IPA’s report synchronised with local frameworks of publishing associations worldwide, Bodour Al Qasimi conducted 40 on-site visits around Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Europe, where she met with publishers in their own countries, especially those societies that had long been isolated from the publishing sector and cultural scene.

Bodour in Tiblisi, Georgia Image Credit: Supplied

First educational academy of IPA

These continuous visits made by Bodour Al Qasimi became a step towards establishing the pioneering ‘International Publishers Association Academy’ initiative, where over 150 leading officials and executives in the publishing industry, from more than 40 countries, were enrolled. Those that benefited from the initiative included publishing houses, distributors, authors, teachers, book fairs, culture and free speech advocates. Work through the academy now provides dialogues, lectures, and scientific analyses on modern publishing strategies, market trends, and the readers’ preferences for more than 15,000 publishers in over 70 countries.

IPA Africa Publishing Innovation Fund

Al Qasimi continued her efforts by establishing the ‘IPA Africa Publishing Innovation Fund,’ where she helped to distribute these grants to support the development of publishing practices, including educational publishing and initiatives that provide sources of knowledge for low-income communities. This was to increase access to books, strengthening knowledge and culture, as well as empowering intellectuals and creatives.

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Enrolling 11 Arab countries’ association to IPA

Arab publishers were widely supported and encouraged by the IPA President as they represent huge publishing markets that had a great influence in shaping the culture of about 430 million Arabs around the world. These efforts have attracted the attention of foreign publishers towards Arabic literature, as its readers start showing more interest in the translated works from Arabic writers.

Even before Al Qasimi assumed her roles as Vice-President and President of the IPA, she made every effort to increase the Arab publishers’ presence in the industry and continued to do so through her reign. Her valiant efforts opened the doors for a number of associations in the region including the ‘Emirates Publishers Association’ in 2009, ‘The Saudi Publishers Association’ and the ‘Tunisian Publishers Association’ in 2015, the ‘Jordanian Publishers Association’ in 2017, associations of Iraq, Mauritania and Morocco who joined in 2018, Somalia in 2020, and most recently, Libya and Sudan in 2021. Additionally, Syria was also welcomed to join as an observer member in 2022.

Al Qasimi was adamant to open the doors of the IPA to new members, its concepts and cultures, empowering the societies whose voices had long been ignored to effectively contribute to the progress of the publishing sector and promote their cultures worldwide. This was in line with her goals of sustainable development and common values.

World Book Capital

Al Qasimi’s extensive experience and years of dedication to the book industry all accumulated through her time at the IPA and her many achievements before becoming president are a testament to that. Her continuous efforts to enhance Sharjah’s status as a global cultural centre resulted in the emirate being named, ‘Sharjah World Book Capital 2019’ by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). She is also of the ounder and CEO of the internationally renowned ‘Kalimat Group’, and founder of the ‘Emirates Publishers Association’, where she was able to link the Emirati publishing community to the global counterpart, attracting more attention to Emirati literature and culture.