It was a dream come true for all of “us working on this project,” Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, President of the Emirates Publishers Association, said while reflecting on the recent election of Sharjah as the UNESCO World Book Capital for 2019.
Celebrating her emirate’s feat and pushing Sharjah’s cultural and literary scene forward, Sheikha Bodour, who is also the Vice President of the International Publishers Association, said in an interview to Euronews, “We’ve been working on World Book Capital for 10 years now and (for) 10 years we’ve been putting together programmes and events and activities all around books and reading and culture.”
Sheikha Bodour, who chairs Sharjah’s Investment and Development Authority, was ranked one of the world’s 100 Most Powerful Women by Forbes in 2017.
She’s the founder of the Kalimat Group publishing house, which began with 13 publishers in 2007 and today has 144 members. Their aim is to bring UAE titles overseas.
“We’ve created a platform for them to come and to meet and to get inspired and to have the support they need on the ground and also internationally, so that they could increase their global competitiveness,” she said.
The association has a multinational team, publishing books from the region in languages other than Arabic.
She says the goal is to bring local stories to different cultures around the globe.
“In places like Sweden for example they are reading stories from our region, from our culture. They’re talking about this in school and this is really exciting and it’s the work that I really believe in,” said Al Qasimi.
The Kalimat Foundation for Children’s Empowerment non-profit organisation provides books for children in deprived and trauma-affected regions through donations.
According to the foundation, reading and having access to books is among children’s basic rights.
With that in mind, Al Qasimi also invests her efforts in supporting children’s book authors in the region, which may at times be challenging.
“It’s very difficult because children are really honest and if you write a book that is bad they’ll tell you to your face,” she said.
“So to find a good children’s book author you really need the investment, you really need to find somebody who understands this and really respects this.”
As for her future projects, the IPA vice president explained how she is now working on seminars overseas.
“It’s something new, I haven’t done this before and I’m enjoying every step of the way,” she said.
“Through these regional seminars we’re bringing together publishers from the region and we’re having seminars and workshops and training and an opportunity for us all to network,” added Al Qasimi.