Since being crowned Evening Times Scotswoman of the Year 2014, Cara Henderson and the charity she founded to fight bigotry and prejudice have had a busy 12 months.

Here, she talks to ANN FOTHERINGHAM about what winning the title meant to her, and why she hopes women will never stop speaking up for the causes they believe in.

THE winners of Scotswoman of the Year, the Evening Times achievement award which is celebrating its 53rd anniversary, are campaigners, fundraisers, lifesavers and pioneers.

They fight harder, go further and shout louder than the rest of us to make sure the causes they are passionate about do not get overlooked.

Importantly, far from resting on their laurels once they have won the title, they use their 12-month reign to achieve even more.

Cara Henderson is no exception. The 35-year-old was named Evening Times Scotswoman of the Year 2014 for her inspirational work in the field of anti-sectarianism.

Cara was just a teenager when she set up Nil by Mouth, following the death of her best friend Mark Scott.

The keen football supporter was stabbed to death on a Glasgow street by a stranger who only saw the colour of the scarf he was wearing.

In the 15 years since Mark Scott died, Nil by Mouth has achieved a great deal, from an inspirational schools programme working across 20 local authority areas, to a workplace training initiative which now has more than 70 employers on board.

The charity has successfully campaigned for changes in the law, the establishment of football banning orders and the setting up of a rehabilitation programme for people charged with sectarian offences.

Above all, Nil by Mouth has taken the issue of sectarianism from the margins of public debate to the mainstream, changing attitudes in the process.

“Winning SWOTY is a great opportunity to raise awareness about the issues you care about,” says Cara.

“It has helped me raise the profile of the charity I founded and as a result we have connected with more people than ever in communities right across Scotland.

“It’s only February, and already we have worked in schools, colleges and workplaces in 11 local authorities.”

Cara adds: “I’m so pleased that more schools are becoming involved. We are reaching more and more children and young people and encouraging them to think, not only about the kind of society they want to live in, but also how they can help change the world.”

Also in 2016, Nil by Mouth launched its Kiss Bigotry Goodbye initiative, which encourages football supporters to help change the image of the game; it attracted Scottish Women in Business as a sponsor, which raised thousands of pounds; and it teamed up with Glasgow students for its Pause B4U Post social media campaign.

Cara adds: “We have also had new volunteers coming forward, including a number of student teachers from Strathclyde University who are now assisting with our education programme, which is great.”

On a personal level, Cara has found being thrust into the spotlight once more an invigorating process.

“A particular highlight of the year for me was being invited to speak at the Inspiring Young Women conference at the Scottish Parliament on the issue of self-confidence, which is something I have struggled with a lot in the past,” she explains.

“What these experiences have shown me is that it’s not actually about learning how to become more self-confident, it is all about learning how to be yourself.”

Cara adds: “Being able to share my own experiences of my mental health problems and how I eventually found a way to overcome them has been a privilege and I hope to be able to continue this sort of work in the future.”

Unfortunately, Cara could not attend last night’s dinner.

“I was so disappointed not to be there,” she groans. “SWOTY is such an important event because it acknowledges and celebrates the contribution that so many women across Scotland have made to help make our country, and indeed the wider world, a better place to live in.

“It shows that ordinary people can do extraordinary things, particularly when they are engaged in a cause greater than themselves.”

She smiles: “What strikes me the most about SWOTY, is that it is a room full of smiles. It’s such a lovely, special event.

“I feel incredibly privileged to be included in such a distinguished and caring group of women.”