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, DFID-funded research programme that started in January 2020. The aim of the programme is to build evidence on: the forms, drivers, and experiences of children’s harmful work in African agriculture; ...


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...


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

Journal Article

Real World: Empowering Representations of Women through Film

IDS Bulletin Vol. 43 Nos. 5

This article makes an argument for the added value of the use of documentary film in development research communication. It draws broadly on the specific experience of the Real World film scheme developed by the Pathways of Women's Empowerment Research Programme Consortium and Creative England,...

12 September 2012

Journal Article

Approaches to Development Research Communication

IDS Bulletin Vol. 43 Nos. 5

This article traces the co‐evolution between models of research communication and development. It looks at how creative and visual methods fit into this trajectory. It argues that the current growth in the accessibility of communication technologies has emerged alongside a strong revival of...

Zachary Patterson

12 September 2012

Tessa Lewin’s recent work