Bodour Al Qasimi, who is from Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, has been the Arab world’s unofficial publishing ambassador since she came on the international publishing scene in 2007, after launching the Arabic-language children’s publishing house Kalimat. Since then, Kalimat has grown into a publishing group with a list of more than 400 titles published through five divisions, covering children’s books, books in translation, education, and comics. More than 50 of its original publications have been translated from Arabic to other languages. She also founded the Emirates Publishers Association in 2009.
While Al Qasimi has made an impact in the U.A.E., it’s her soon-to-be-completed two-year term as president of the International Publishers Association that has brought her global recognition. From well before Jan. 1, 2021, when she took over as the second woman to lead the IPA since the organization was founded in 1896, Al Qasimi has been a tireless advocate for publishing on the international stage, including leading a discussion of philanthropy at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland; keynoting the São Paolo Book Fair; and welcoming more than 700 delegates to the 33rd IPA Congress, held last month in Jakarta.
Al Qasimi spearheaded numerous notable projects at the IPA, including a study on the impact of the pandemic on the global publishing industry, which in turn prompted the launch of the Inspire initiative to assist publishers in their recovery, and the launch of the IPA Academy, which offers free professional development courses. She has shined a light on the need for the world to support the development of publishing on the African continent through the creation of the IPA Africa Publishing Innovation Fund, and been a tireless champion of mentorship for women in publishing through the establishment of PublisHer, a program that gathers women for networking and socializing at major book fairs.
Reflecting on her time at the IPA, Al Qasimi says, “Being president of the IPA has been such an honor for me, and it was heartening to see our members’ resilience when confronted with unprecedented challenges. I am incredibly proud I was able to help the industry navigate a particularly critical period during the pandemic. Overall, I hope being elected as only the second woman in IPA’s history will encourage more diversity and inclusion in the publishing industry. Together with the work we have been doing in PublisHer, we are addressing the historic gender imbalance in publishing leadership, and I am proud to see two fantastic women taking over the reins at the IPA. This is positive change, and I couldn’t wish for a better end to my tenure.”