It is not enough for just some women to hold leadership positions in the world's largest publishing houses, said Sheikha Bodour.
Sheikha Bodour Bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Vice President of International Publishers Association (IPA), and founder of PublisHer, has said that women stand on the brink of welcoming a new era for the publishing industry worldwide. She called on female publishers and authors at the PublisHer summit to come together in support of women working in the industry, and empower them with the opportunities they need to make their contribution to advancing the sector amid the changing landscape of the industry, globally.
These statements came during her keynote address at the first edition of PublisHer summit, which coincided with the yearlong celebration of Sharjah World Book Capital 2019, and was held on the sidelines of the 38th edition of the Sharjah International Book Fair. The summit convened an elite group of Arab and international female intellectuals, writers and publishers to highlight several issues related to boosting women’s role in publishing and other cultural sectors.
Dubai Abulhoul said she became an author as there was a lack of female protagonists who represented her or her surroundings.
Sheikha Bodour remarked: “It is not enough for just some women to hold leadership positions in the world's largest publishing houses. What we are aiming for is to rewrite the rules of the game; provide the needed support to create an environment, which fosters equality, so the industry becomes balanced and fair. These changes are indeed for the better and will guarantee the industry’s continued success."
Sheikha Bodour stressed that the objective of the PublisHer summit is to offer publishing professionals a platform developed ‘by women for women’. Here, they will freely express their views about the realities of the sector in their respective countries, exchange knowledge and talk about the challenges they face.
Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, who has been charting her own path as the first Muslim woman to represent the US at the Olympics, and won the 2016 Rio Olympics, was in attendance. The role model said: “The voices of women often don’t get the chance to make a difference. Through the platform offered by this summit to female publishers and women around the world, we are hopeful of a promising future for us in cultural, social and economic sectors.”
The first panel session of the summit was titled ‘Emirati Women in Publishing’. Moderated by Iman Ben Chaibah, founder of Sail Publishing, the panel’s speakers, Dr Alyazia Khalifa, Founder of Al Falak for Translation and Publishing, and authors Salha Obaid Gabesh, owner of Sadiqat Publishing and Dubai Abulhoul, threw light on how local women have been transforming and advancing the UAE’s publishing industry.
Saying the issue of diversity is complex, whether in jobs or the cultural arena for women, Alyazia opined, “We face different challenges than men. In my experience, men focus on sellable content, while women are passionate about creative and educational content. It’s time women step up and prove their worth through their merit and professionalism.”
Gabesh added: “We often receive harsh feedback on our content. The animosity does not help, because we all learn from each other.”
Dubai Abulhoul said she became an author as there was a lack of female protagonists who represented her or her surroundings. “All I’ve read is good stories from other cultures that I didn’t belong in. So, I decided that the first story I write will be about strong female protagonists who I see myself in.”
The second session, ‘Women in literature: Authors and publishers in the Arab world’ brought together Arab authors Ahlam Mosteghanemi from Algeria; Iraq’s Inaam Kachachi; Sudanese Leila Aboulela; and Omaima Abdullah Al Khamis from Saudi Arabia. Moderated by Dr Fatima Al Boudi, head of Al Ain Publishing and Distribution House, the panel discussed the issue of stereotyping women in literature and the role of translation in taking the works of Arab authors to the world.
Mosteghanemi said: “When I start writing, I don’t think about a style. Many people have said to me that if I removed the cover of my book, Memory in the Flesh, they wouldn’t know if it was written by man or a woman.”
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