Case Studies

Seema, Project Lehar

13th June 2024

Seema has seized every opportunity that Project Lehar has offered. Despite her learning disability, she has set up her own business and started training other young women in her community.

Seema (26) lives with her mother and five siblings in Bihar, India. The family support themselves through farming. After Seema’s father died during the COVID-19 pandemic, the family struggled to make ends meet.

Seema, who has a learning disability and left school early, was already busy with domestic and farming work, but wanted to start earning herself so that she could contribute more to the family income. She joined Project Lehar to build her skills, cycling over 20km each day to attend sessions.

‘I already knew some bit of stitching but wanted to work on my finishing and exploring options to earn with that and support my family,’ Seema explains.

Skills to earn

Project Lehar is run by the Aga Khan Foundation with support from King’s Trust International. It offers vocational training, entrepreneurship and life skills courses for girls and young women from low-income backgrounds. It also supports girls who left school early to complete their education.

At the Lehar centre, Seema developed her stitching abilities and learned basic entrepreneurship techniques, including how to manage time and money. ‘The enterprise skills helped me visualise my idea and work towards it,’ she recalls. ‘The teachers appreciated me and helped me. They guided me to plan establishing my small outlet from our house.’

Lehar staff describe Seema as ‘vibrant and forward-looking’ and, unsurprisingly, she immediately put her learning into practice, taking in stitching work such as clothes and blankets. She is now earning a small income which she shares with her family. ‘I am working more now, but I still manage my time well, earning some money and I gradually hope to increase and continue,’ Seema explains.

Confidence and pride

The training programme saw Seema’s communication skills and confidence blossom, significantly boosting her self-esteem as well as her earning power. Seema particularly enjoyed Lehar’s ‘community challenge’, which sees groups of young women practise their emerging skills in real life, by designing and delivering a community project.


‘I loved the sessions, they have so many activities, including the community challenge project,’ Seema remembers. ‘We met so many new people and shared about our project and conducted meetings which was amazing. I stood up too to address the audience.’


Public speaking and negotiation are challenges which many people find intimidating. But with repeated practice and real-life experience of community presentations and discussions, Seema gradually built the skills she would need to engage and negotiate with customers and suppliers. She now takes great pride in her business, and in greeting her customers as she walks through her village.

Recently, Seema has also been able to pass on her stitching skills to other young women still attending Project Lehar. One group has set up a community project focused on skills development, and Seema was asked to step up as one of their trainers, leading sessions to introduce the group to different stitching designs. Now an entrepreneur, a breadwinner and a trainer, Seema is thriving.

‘Never consider yourself weak,’ Seema advises. ‘With a small support you can do wonders in any sector or work you do…. I am happy.’

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