At the annual meeting of the School Student Union of Norway in 1964, a young man stood up and launched the idea of a student solidarity movement. He said “it’s wrong to merely work for improved conditions at our own schools when youth in other countries do not even have the opportunity to go to school”. This was the beginning of Operation Day’s Work (ODW). 52 years later ODW has supported education projects in more than 60 countries across Asia, Africa and Latin-America. Today, ODW is the largest youth campaign in Norway with over 4000 volunteers.
The two components
ODW consists of two interconnected components: the information campaign “International Week” (IW) and the ODW day. International Week kicks off mid-October every year when schools abandon their normal curriculum and focus on global issues like poverty, inequality and development. At the end of IW students volunteer to carry out “a day’s work” and donate their salary to the ODW project.
In 1964 Norwegian students earned 103,000 NOK (app.12 000 USD) for the reconstruction of school buildings in Algeria. Today, approximately 100,000 youth earn 30 million NOK (app. 3,5 million USD) annually in order to provide youth in the Global South with educational opportunities. Every year the students choose a new project at the annual meeting of the
School Student Union. The funds are channelled through Norwegian NGOs which specialize in education programs for youth. The projects last about 5 years.
International Week (IW)
The information campaign called International Week (IW), is carried out prior to the ODW-Day. ODW develops an educational program which is offered free of charge to all students between 13 and 19 years old. The program focuses on global topics such as solidarity, human rights and education, as well as information about the project. ODW volunteers tour the country and hold lectures at the schools. In addition, several films, booklets and online resources are made available to the schools. These are developed through a close cooperation with youth from the project country. Check out the “library” here: bibliotek.od.no.
The principle of Solidarity is one of the most central aspects of ODW. Solidarity is understood as shared responsibility to achieve equal opportunities. Having taken part in the information campaign, the Norwegian youth should have the knowledge and understanding to make a conscious choice whether to work on the ODW Day or not. ODW wishes to contribute to a more diversified picture of the Global South. We wish to question the, sometimes simplistic and occasionally damaging, presentation of the situation in Africa, Asia and South America in the Norwegian public domain. We aim at emphasising equality and therefore cooperate with independent local organisations in project countries. We believe that it is the local partners who know best how to improve the situation in their own countries.
The thematic framework of the projects and the school based information campaigns varies from year to year. ODW has for example worked with themes such as human trafficking, problems related to violence, agriculture and protection of the rainforest. However, education remains the common denominator. ODW is of the opinion that education represents the best road to sustainable development, and directs its efforts toward the provision of Education for All. ODW may support both formal and informal education, training and organizational development. All activities should be inclusive, relevant, developmental and aim at contributing towards equal rights and youth empowerment. Like Nelson Mandela once said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use you change the world”. ODW believes in this saying, more than anything.
Youth do not only represent the future but are also a part of the present. We must therefore ask ourselves what kind of world we wish for. ODW involves youth in all stages of the campaign. The development of the information campaign is based on cooperation between youth in the North and the South. Youth organise the campaign in Norway, youth work on the ODW Day, and it is youths who are included in the projects in the South. We, as youth, can demonstrate that we do not accept that other youth are condemned to a life in poverty and injustice. The poorest of the poor are naturally those who are in greatest need of assistance.
By supporting the poorest we can counter the enormous differences between rich and poor. ODW does not wish to accept that the rich continue to become richer while the poor become poorer. Therefore, it is our desire to contribute towards youth in the South getting an education which will provide them with the opportunity of lifting themselves out of poverty.
In summary, ODW bases itself on the following:
Operation Day’s Work is a solidarity campaign with several organizational links. Common to most of the links are that they consist of youth between the ages of 13 and 19. Below you find an overview of the various ODW building blocks and some information on their functions.
The Annual General Meeting of the School Student Union of Norway (Elevtinget)
The annual general meeting (AGM) of the School Student Union of Norway chooses the annual ODW campaign. The AGM votes over two or three different development projects which have been approved by ODW’s project council. In advance, all those schools which have participated in ODW are given the opportunity of organising a preliminary vote. This procedure is designed to ensure that also those schools which are not members of the School Student Union of Norway can participate in the selection process.
The ODW board (OD-styret)
ODW’s governing body, the board, is responsible for all activities associated with ODW. This includes among other things, economic, legal, and organisational responsibility. The board is elected at the AGM of the School Students Union of Norway.
The National Committee (Hovedkomitéen)
ODW’s National Committee (NC) consists of between 10 and 12 members, including the ODW president. ODW’s board appoints the members of the National Committee. The National Committee is chaired by the ODW president and has day-to-day responsibility for the implementation of ODW’s campaign within the financial guidelines laid down by the board. The National Committee is responsible for the production of information material, for coordinating the campaign at the national level, and for assisting the District Committees in their work. The National Council members work fulltime without remuneration.
The District Committees (Distriktskomitéene)
The National Council (NC) divides the country into districts. Each district has a District Committee (DC) which is headed by a district leader. In each DC between five and twelve youth coordinate the International Week within its district. The District Committee enlists schools, arranges seminars for teachers and members of school committees and holds lectures during the International Week.
The School Committees (Skolekomitéene)
At each school participating in ODW there should be a School Committee. The School Committee is responsible for organising the International Week as well as the ODW Day at their school.
ODW’s Project Council (ODs bistandsfaglige råd)
The Project Council consists of six experts, with extensive experience from development work along with the ODW presidents from the last four years. The work is not remunerated. It is responsible for following-up the projects supported by ODW and ensures that the long term plans are implemented, and that budgets are adhered to. ODW’s Project Council acts as the board’s advisory body in matters related to on-going ODW projects.
The ODW- secretariat
ODW has 3 advisors which have the daily responsibility for ODW’s finances, assist the ODW president and the National Committee with the information campaign in addition to oversee the implementation of the projects.