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.



Learning support to the ALIADAS-WVL programme in Mozambique

In this project, IDS designed and delivered a 5-day workshop in Nampula, Mozambique on behalf of the ALIADAS-WVL programme in March 2023. The ALIADAS-WVL programme convenes a network of NGOs working to defend the rights of women and girls across Mozambique, and requested support from IDS to...


Healing Justice as a Framework for Feminist Activism in Africa

Healing justice is an emerging political organising framework that aims to address the systemic causes of injustice experienced by marginalised peoples due to the harmful impacts of oppressive histories, intergenerational trauma, and structural violence. It recognises that these damaging...


Youth employment and politics

Over 40 percent of global populations are under 25 yet young people cannot secure work and increasingly face a crisis of citizenship. Youth Employment and Politics at IDS builds on decades of research to develop knowledge and evidence that contributes to effective interventions that supports,...


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...



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


Working Paper

Participation For, With, and By Girls: Evidencing Impact

REJUVENATE Working Paper 2

This paper presents the findings of a review of publicly available, published evidence on the efficacy of development projects that self-identify as ‘girl-led’, both within academic literature and from established organisations working with girls.

Tessa Lewin
Tessa Lewin & 4 others

13 September 2023

Journal Article

Global Queer and Feminist Activism: An Introduction

Queer and feminist visual activism has various origins across the globe and has emerged in a fluid cultural field of visual arts, popular culture, and protest aesthetics. Given the current context of gender backlash, these forms of activism have become urgent, and so too has scholarship that...

Olu Jenzen

30 December 2022

Tessa Lewin’s recent work

Past Event

Unsettling Apologies: Critical writings on apology from South Africa

There has recently been a global resurgence of demands for the acknowledgement of historical and contemporary wrongs, as well as for apologies and reparation for harms suffered. Drawing on the histories of injustice, dispossession and violence in South Africa, this book examines the cultural,...

14 November 2022

Past Event

Gender in child and youth rights

Join the Rejuvenate project for a dialogue on gender and child/youth rights, where we will be asking: How does gender intersect with child/youth rights and participation? What kind of gender equality work is being done by/with children and young people? What are the challenges and...

19 July 2022