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The FREE STEM Fund specifically focuses on narrowing the gender gap in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields.

Optiver Foundation is committed to bringing greater diversity to the technology and finance industries around the world. We helped to launch the FREE STEM Fund to create equal opportunity through greater access to STEM education. Read more here.


FREE STEM leverages shared governance and participatory mechanisms to design a fund that is tailored to the needs and gaps within the STEM sector. We also leverage grassroots STEM expertise and voices by investing in projects that prioritise girls, women and other underrepresented groups' access to STEM opportunities. The Fund will use holistic approaches that take into account their enabling environment, with the objective of narrowing the gender STEM-gap and increasing the number of women, transgender and non-binary role models and STEM changemakers.


What is                       ? ​

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FREE STEM is making decisions using participatory grantmaking models where an Advisory Committee and Regional Peer Panels have the power over funding decisions. By creating a more equitable granting model, the Fund will be more likely to identify and choose the most effective programmes and support them in achieving maximum impact.


Between our Advisory Committee, who is making key decisions about eligibility criteria and grantmaking, and the Regional Review panels, the applications will go through an democratic screening process to ensure fairness in the selection process.

Governance structure


The Advisory Committee is comprised of women and non-binary STEM experts who are making key decisions about the FREE STEM Fund to ensure a fair process. The committee members were selected based on their expertise in grantmaking, gender justice, feminist principles, inclusion and STEM. The Advisory Committee has created and committed to a Conflict of Interest statement that will guide their decision-making process within their FREE Fund responsibilities.

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Rajina Shrestha (Nepal)

Rajina is a development worker with a brewing interest in the international funding ecosystem and the need to resource grassroots movements strategically. 

She co-founded Women Leaders in Technology (WLiT), an organisation that works with young women in tech. She believes that feminist leadership that is inclusive and intersectional will be the face of the next generation of institutional change.

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hanan khamis

Hanan is a co-founder and Board of Directors member at Arab Women in Science and Engineering (AWSc) NGO, founded in 2014, aiming at supporting Arab women's professional careers in STEM, in academia and industry. She is also a biomedical engineer by education, with PhD in medical imaging. 

Through her leading positions at globally recognised companies, she has a strong understanding of the technical and soft skills looked for in talents, and is exposed to female success programmes. Hanan advocates for female empowerment, leadership and equal growth opportunities.

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zanda desir
(st lucia)

Zanda is a feminist food chemist. Her work primarily focuses on SDG's 1, 2, 5 and 16. Zanda has served as the Commonwealth Youth Peace Ambassadors Network (CYPAN) Regional Coordinator for the Caribbean and the Americas.  

Zanda is a Women Deliver Young Leader alumni and serves on the advisory committee for the 2023 Women Deliver Conference. She hopes to further her studies in Food Innovation to create solutions to hunger, micronutrient deficiencies  and unemployment in her island, St.Lucia. 

Daria Kasmamytova

Daria is a Central Asian non-binary queer activist, who at the age of 15 co-initiated the girl-led group Girl Activists of Kyrgyzstan, and later co-founded the first queer and non-binary teenage youth zine in Central Asia -Boktudakorgonemessin. Their group received a Global Girl Award in 2015.


Daria has also been part of Bishkek Feminist Initiatives for five years as the media and communications lead. Today, they are the Digital Workspace and ICT director at FemAgora, where they identify strategies to maintain and improve collaboration across digital workplace applications. 

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Sheila Pamela Lopéz Cifuentes (mexico)

Sheila is a lesbian feminist, intercultural manager and philosopher of science. Her main themes focus on lesbian existence and science and women's studies from feminist epistemology.

She is also co-founder of CETREG, a Mexican feminist organisation that has its origins in 2016 and whose objective is to co-create spaces for feminist reflection for women in general and lesbians in particular.

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Hallima Nyota Ang’uria (kenya)

Hallima is passionate about young women empowerment, human rights advocacy, digital rights, peace and security, and meaningful youth engagement. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Information Technology. Hallima also possesses certificates in multiple areas including Digital Journalism and Youth Peace and Security with a vast experience in community development.


She has had the privilege of working as a digital disruptor with Amnesty Kenya. Hallima currently sits at the National Steering Committee for the Social Justice Centres Working Group. She believes that where one comes from should not determine whether one's rights matter or not.

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Joyce Nwanochi

Joyce is a Pharmacist and Data Analyst with vast experience in the health and social impact sectors. She primarily advocates for the inclusion and participation of women and girls in spaces where they are traditionally excluded, and recently began focusing this passion to creating an inclusive and participatory tech ecosystem for women and girls in Africa. 

Joyce is a project lead at Nsonye, an organisation working to bridge the gender gap in the tech industry for women and girls. She also volunteers as a Partnership and Grants Lead with She Code Africa.

Advisory Committee
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