Women have ruled for thousands of years. There’s Neithhotep, who became the first queen of Egypt roughly 5,000 years ago, followed a few centuries later by Kubaba, who became queen of Sumer in present-day Iraq. Through the millennia, the balance has wavered, but female leaders are making their mark in the modern world, too. Since 1960, at least 59 countries have elected their first female head of state—a milestone that the United States notoriously dodged in 2016, and could potentially meet in 2020. (Read more: Who was the most powerful woman in ancient history?)
Clearly, there’s still a long way to go towards women’s equal representation in government and society. This year on March 8, International Women’s Day is highlighting the problem of gender imbalance with the theme #BalanceforBetter. (See photos of a matriarchal island where women keep ancient traditions alive.)
In these photos, we highlight countries, cities, and communities around the world where women hold important political and social positions. Add a few to your travel bucket list—and see how you can get involved at home, too.
Learn more: the National Geographic book, When Women Ruled the World, explores the lives of six remarkable female pharaohs.