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Human Rights Award for Rainforest Activist

Liz Chicaje Churay received the Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law 2018 in Lima, Peru, from German ambassador Stefan Herzberg and French ambassador Antoine Grassin.

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Liz Chicaje Churay receiving the award from the French ambassador Antoine Grassin and the German ambassador Stefan Herzberg.

01/22/2019 Lima, Peru - Liz Chicaje Churay belongs to the indigenous people of the Bora. The petite woman lives in northern Peru, in a rainforest area where the country's youngest national park, the Yaguas National Park, was established in 2018.

The park is about 1,000 kilometres from the capital Lima, 8,700 square kilometres large and extremely species-rich. "We, the indigenous peoples, are the guardians of Yaguas," says Liz Chicaje Churay, "and we need the National Park to protect the vast rainforests and rivers from illegal gold miners, loggers and anyone else who wants to make a private profit from the region's natural resources," she says.

That Yaguas became a national park last year is also thanks to Liz Chicaje Churay. As chairwoman of FECONA, one of the oldest and best organised indigenous federations in Peru's Amazon region, Liz helped advance the year-long process that helped Yaguas achieve national park status.

The mother of five had made a strong case to convince 23 of the 26 communities around Yaguas that the rainforest along the Yaguas River deserved the highest international protection category. On Tuesday evening (22 January 2019) at the German Embassy in Lima, she was awarded the "Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law 2018" for this commitment, for which she was nominated in December by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on the occasion of the Human Rights Day.

Liz Chicaje Churay We, the indigenous peoples, are the guardians of Yaguas and we need the National Park to protect the vast rainforests and rivers from illegal gold miners, loggers and anyone else who wants to make a private profit from the region's natural resources. Liz Chicaje Churay

"Liz Chicaje is a person who has a great role in the establishment of the Yaguas National Park and in aspects of bilateral cooperation with Peru: the issue of environmental protection, establishing national forests, combating illegal logging or mining, protection of indigenous communities. All these elements converge in her," the German Ambassador Stefan Herzberg praised the commitment of Liz Chicaje.

“The creation of this park means a lot to us: to continue taking care of our territories and to have a healthy diet/food. For us, this place means what a bank means for you: it is where the animals reproduce, the water is healthy and clean. So for us, the communities, we had to defend this place,” says Liz Chicaje Churay.“

Yaguas is located in the Iquitos region, in north-eastern Peru. The area belongs to the Amazon lowlands, is very difficult to access and extremely species-rich. Thousands of different plant and animal species have been found there so far. These include pink river dolphins, giant otters, manatees, jaguars and woolly monkeys. Yaguas takes its name from the indigenous peoples of the Yagua, who live in the Amazon region in northeastern Peru all the way to Colombia and who also gave their name to the great Yaguas River. The Yaguas rises in the national park and flows into the Rio Putumayo. The Yaguas is one of the few rivers that have their origin in the Amazon basin.

The Yaguas National Park is uninhabited. The indigenous communities that live on the lower reaches of the Yaguas River and the Putumayo River around Yaguas depend on the rich aquatic resources of this ecosystem, especially fish. Therefore, the protection of the area is vital for their survival.

Read more about Yaguas: