Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, the President of the American University of Sharjah (AUS), has been honoured as one of Fast Company Middle East’s Most Creative People in Business 2023, specifically recognised in the “Bringing Good Things to More People” category.
Expressing her gratitude upon receiving the award, Sheikha Bodour humbly acknowledged the recognition, expressing surprise and appreciation. She described creativity as the act of transforming something from nothing and finding innovative solutions to problems. Sheikha Bodour expressed her delight if her creative endeavors have contributed to addressing challenges. Reflecting on the words of Steve Jobs, she emphasized that those who dare to believe they can change the world are the ones who actually do. Sheikha Bodour emphasised the importance of thinking differently to make a meaningful impact, highlighting the shared trait among all the nominees for the award.
In addition to this prestigious accolade, Sheikha Bodour has been recognised for her innovative thinking and leadership in various initiatives for the greater good, with a particular focus on literacy, reading, and culture.
One of her notable accomplishments was the establishment of the Emirates Publishing Association in 2009, a non-profit trade association dedicated to developing and professionalising the UAE’s publishing industry. Sheikha Bodour’s international perspective led the EPA to obtain membership in the International Publishers Association (IPA) in Geneva, a historically Western-led organisation. She also played a pivotal role in piloting IPA committees and initiatives before being elected as its vice-president from 2019 to 2020.
Sheikha Bodour’s commitment to making a difference in the literary world extended beyond the UAE. In 2019, she formed a partnership between the IPA and Dubai Cares, resulting in the Africa Publishing Innovation Fund (APIF). The fund invested $800,000 in 18 projects from 2020 to 2022, promoting indigenous languages, literacy, education, library access, and accessible book publishing for visually impaired readers. The APIF continues to positively impact thousands of people across 20 countries.
During her presidency of the IPA from 2021 to 2022, Sheikha Bodour faced the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which significantly impacted the book industry. However, she successfully unified the global publishing community by redefining it as a balanced ecosystem comprising interconnected stakeholders.
Advocacy for women’s representation was a core aspect of Sheikha Bodour’s tenure as IPA president. She actively promoted female inclusion in committees, discussion panels, and meetings. Her efforts resulted in her successors as president and vice-president both being women. In 2025, when the vice-president assumes the top role, she will become the third consecutive woman to lead the organisation.
In 2019, Sheikha Bodour established “PublisHer” in response to the underrepresentation of women in leadership positions within the publishing industry. PublisHer serves as an interactive platform that amplifies the voices of women in the industry and provides practical support to help them advance their careers.
Sheikha Bodour’s long-standing determination led to Sharjah earning the esteemed status of World Book Capital City in 2019. Her innovative year-long program prioritised inclusivity, and as a lasting legacy, she conceptualised the remarkable House of Wisdom, a cultural hub and library that focuses on fostering human interaction and enlightenment.
Furthermore, in 2016, Sheikha Bodour launched the Kalimat Foundation, which aims to provide access to books for Middle Eastern children affected by conflict or visual impairment. The foundation empowers vulnerable young individuals by equipping them with knowledge and ideas by giving them books in accessible formats. So far, it has touched the lives of 162,000 disadvantaged children in 31 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America.