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.



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...


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...



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...

4 February 2020

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

Past Event

Evidencing participatory child rights work

The Rejuvenate project is delighted to invite you to our next virtual dialogue. This time we’ll be discussing evidencing participatory child rights work. There are many of us who believe that we should push for the participation of children and youth, simply because it’s their right to be...

18 May 2022

Past Event

Creative praxis and working with children and young people

As part of the Rejuvenate project, we are hosting a series of grounded dialogues. We’ve just confirmed the date for our third dialogue in February, which will reflect on the use of creative praxis to further rights and participation for children and young people. In the first year of the...

23 February 2022