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Senior advocate of Nigeria

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Chief Folake Solanke (born 29 March 1932), SAN, CON, is a Nigerian Lawyer, administrator, and social critic. She is the first female Senior Advocate of Nigeria and the first Nigerian female lawyer to wear the silk gown as Senior Counsel. She is the first Commissioner of Western State, and is a former Chairperson of the Western Nigeria Television Broadcasting Corporation (WNTBC).

She was the 42nd and the first African International President of Zonta International, an international service organization that focus primarily on advancing the status of women. The 43rd International President was also African.

Upon her return to Nigeria in August 1962, Solanke began her law career at the chamber of late Honourable Justice Michael Adeyinka Odesanya (rtd), while teaching Latin and Mathematics at Yejide Girls Grammar School in Ibadan, Oyo State. Her father died in April 1963. In May 1963, after she was called to the Bar in absentia, she moved to the law office of Chief Frederick Rotimi Williams as junior counsel.

In 1972, Solanke was appointed the first Commissioner of Western State and chairperson of the Western Nigeria Television Broadcasting Corporation (WNTBC).

In 1981, Solanke became the first female Senior Advocate of Nigeria and the first Nigerian female lawyer to wear the silk gown.

Solanke rose through the ranks of Zonta International, first serving as the District Governor for Africa and then as International Vice-President. In 1988, 1990, and 1994, Solanke ran for election to the International Presidency of the organization (she did not run in 1992). She lost the first two times, but won the third time, being elected in Hong Kong on July 21, 1994 as the 42nd International President, the first non–caucasian, African president of the organization since its establishment in 1919.

Solanke’s autobiography, Reaching for the stars was published in 2007. The book described her as a “Lady of many firsts” and how she rose to prominence in the legal profession.