How did your experience establishing the EPA prepare you for your role at the IPA?

When I look back on my life and what I have achieved so far, I realise that everything that I have done has been a stepping stone on the path to my role at IPA. The EPA, which I established in 2009, was an important milestone on this journey. Sharjah is the cultural capital of the Emirates, and books are part of our lifeblood as people. The EPA allowed us to further develop our publishing industry and allowed me to lead by example and open doors for women in the industry.

The EPA has achieved many major milestones and, after we gained full membership to the IPA in 2012, we proved how valuable and necessary our work has been. I am proud of the training, mentorship programmes and improved publishing-related conditions and laws throughout the region that we have been part of.

My roles at the IPA are built on the strong foundation that the EPA has given me. It is the same passion, the same dedication but on a global scale.

What effect did the pandemic have on the IPA organisation and the role it plays in the publishing industry?

In many ways, the Covid pandemic was like shock therapy for the world. It jolted us all out of our complacency, it made us realise that we did not have to continue along the same trajectory. Of course it was devastating in so many ways, but I like to focus on the silver lining in every cloud.

When the world went into lockdown and production ceased it was hugely challenging for the industry. It really highlighted our vulnerabilities and pushed us into becoming more sustainable and resilient. We are unifying the voice and the vision of the global publishing ecosystem through two main initiatives: InSPIRe (the International Sustainable Publishing and Industry Resilience plan) and our online learning portal, the IPA Academy.

You were the first Arab woman – and only the second woman – to take on this role. How did that impact your approach to it?

As a woman I am fully aware of the inequalities facing women in publishing. It is an industry that employs 2/3rds more women than men, but where men hold a disproportionate share of the executive-level roles. I was determined to use my life experiences and my influence to develop women in the industry, to make their voices heard and to invite them to take a seat on the table that I now head. My focus is on the collective good – marshalling the contributions of so many talented and innovative women in the industry to show that we are truly stronger together.

As you look back over your 4 years as VP, then President of the IPA, what do you feel are your greatest achievements?

Even before the Covid pandemic, we were responding to major changes in the way we do business. From the digital publishing revolution to the post-Covid ‘new normal’ we have stepped up to the plate and responded in a way that has made us stronger and more resilient. I am proud of my contribution to those responses.

My greatest achievement has been to play my part in the industry that I truly believe is the cornerstone of all progress. Literacy and learning, and accessibility to all, is the foundation of all humankind’s achievements, and the publishing industry – and the IPA – are at the core.

What is next on the agenda for you?

The IPA has achieved so much and has grown and developed into an even stronger voice on the global stage, but now is not the time to be resting on our laurels. I am someone who is driven by a passionate desire to see the book industry continue to grow. I have plans for the future that will build on what has been achieved so far, and I am looking forward to sharing the next steps on the journey as soon as the preparations are complete. So watch this space – the future is fabulous!