WAO-Afrique began as the African branch of WAO (World Association for Orphans), a Belgian non-governmental organisation established in 1985. WAO-Afrique became autonomous in 1990 and on August 30 of the same year, signed a draft treaty with the Togolese government. The Secretariat is located in Lomé, Togo.
The main thrust of activities in the period 1990-1996 were social mobilisation, awareness raising, lobbying, the removal of children from exploitative situations as well as their rehabilitation and reintegration. Since 1996, WAO-Afrique has played a co-coordinating role in the sub-region, particularly with regard to actions and initiatives pertaining to child domestic workers.
The impact of WAO-Afrique’s programmes is increasingly being acknowledged on the international stage. The expertise of the Executive Director in tackling exploitative practices and children’s rights violations has led to his appointment to the International Council of the Global Campaign for Education in 1998; election to the Executive Committee for ECPAT International in 2002; and membership to the Consultative Committee of the International Cocoa Initiative. Additionally, he has been invited to present reports on the situation of human rights, particularly children’s rights, in Africa at an international level.
The Executive Director of WAO-Afrique is M. Cléophas Mally. The Board of Directors is comprised of sub-regional and international representatives, and oversees all activities of the organisation. The 7 member Board is chaired by M. Michel Chabirand. Staff at the Secretariat includes a social worker, a lawyer, an economist, a specialist in education, and a registered nurse.