NEW YORK, 10th July 2016 (WAM) — Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon today urged all governments, businesses and civil society to support and invest in teenage girls and said everyone deserves the benefits of economic growth and social progress.

“Let us work together to ensure a life of security, dignity and opportunity for all,” Ki-moon said this in his message on the occasion of World Population Day.

The UN chief also demanded that inequalities between boys and girls should be rectified “for the success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” which it includes the specific goal of achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls.

He said that despite significant gains made in reducing poverty and improving opportunity and well-being for many people around the world, hundreds of millions remain desperate for a chance of a better future. “Among those least served by previous development initiatives are girls, particularly those in their formative teenage years.”

“Just when girls should be in school and imagining the possibilities ahead, too many are held back from pursuing their ambitions by social and cultural traps. While a boy’s options and opportunities tend to expand when he becomes an adolescent, those of a girl too often shrink.”

Mr. Ki-moon further noted that half of all sexual assaults worldwide are committed against girls aged 15 or younger. In developing countries, he said, one in three girls is married before she reaches 18. And teenage girls are less likely than teenage boys to start or finish secondary school.

In 1989, the Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme recommended that 11th July be observed by the international community as World Population Day, a day to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues. This year’s theme is ‘Investing in teenage girls.’