Image of Tessa Lewin

Tessa Lewin

Research Fellow

Tessa is a Research Fellow at IDS. She is a development professional with over 20 years of experience working on participatory action-research projects both as a researcher and visual practitioner. Tessa has extensive experience in participatory action research and project management.

She is a leading innovator in the use of diverse audio-visual technologies in development research, with substantial experience as a trainer in this regard; from the designing and facilitation of the photovoice project Through Children’s Eyes in 1999, with the Rockefeller Foundation, East Africa, to her more recent work involving digital storytelling, documentary film, and animation.

From 2007-2011 she managed the communication for Pathways of Women’s Empowerment. She completed her doctorate at the University of Brighton, on queer visual activism in South Africa. She currently co-convenes the MA in Gender and Development at IDS. She also co-leads the ‘policy and practice’ stream of IDS’ Countering the Backlash project. Her other work combines political and academic interests in children/youth, gender and sexuality, with creative media and research skills.

Recent publications include ‘Queer Visual Activism in South Africa’ (Open Access) in The Aesthetics of Global Protest: Visual Culture and Communication.

Thematic interests

Media, communication, digital technology, children, youth, gender, sexuality, film, arts-based and visual methodologies and activism.



Action on Children’s Harmful Work in African Agriculture

Action on Children’s Harmful Work in African Agriculture (ACHA) is a seven-year research programme supported by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) that started in January 2020. The aim of the programme is to build evidence on: the forms, drivers, and experiences of...


Participatory Research on Reintegration in Bangladesh and Cambodia

This research project is led by Eric Kasper of the cities cluster and funded by Winrock and USAID. Phase one What constitutes successful reintegration for survivors of trafficking in persons (TIP) and what can various stakeholders do to increase the likelihood of successful...


Countering Backlash: Reclaiming Gender Justice

Global progress on gender equality is under threat. We are living in an age where major political and social shifts are resulting in new forces that are visibly pushing back to reverse the many gains made for women’s rights and to shrink civic space. This patriarchal backlash is escalating...



'Rejuvenate’ is a project that recognises the value that children and young people can bring when they are given the space and support to do so. It began with a process to collate and map previous and current child rights projects that exhibit substantive participation with children and youth...



Universal justice: a provocation

We (Tessa and Robert) are working on a book of forewords Robert has written for other books.  We think collecting the writing together In this way will draw attention to their importance and be valuable to others.  We were brainstorming about the final section which is still to be...

19 October 2020


Journal Article

The Aesthetics of Global Protest

Protest and Social Movements;

While the form of visual activism currently being developed in the United States and Western Europe is more commonly linked to street protests or activist campaigning and is often explicitly anti-capitalist, in South Africa visual activism has a different epistemological history and...

9 December 2019

Tessa Lewin’s recent work


Living archive aims to rejuvenate child and youth rights and participation

“I’m only a child and I don’t have all the solutions, but I want you to realise, neither do you.” Severn Cullis-Suzuki, 12 years old, Rio Earth Summit, 1992 “You come to us young people for hope. How dare you. You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words… all...

11 February 2021