HOW do you follow in the footsteps of women who give up everything to change the world? How do you find a worthy successor to those who have beaten injustice and saved lives?

The answer is simple – look around you.

The search for the 2016 Evening Times Scotswoman of the Year is already underway and it’s one of my favourite times of the year.

To discover the stories behind some of the most caring and most inspiring women in the country is a real privilege.

Previous winners, of course, are all amazing and it means that every year, judging is practically impossible – and the new title holder will have some extremely impressive shoes to fill.

Take last year’s winner, Adele Patrick, founder of and campaigner for the Glasgow Women’s Library.

She didn’t sit back and shut up when her dream of a nationally recognised museum for women hit obstacle after obstacle; she ploughed ahead, refused to take no for an answer, and is now at the helm of an internationally-renowned resource.

Isobel Murdoch, who set up Hansel Village in Ayrshire, didn’t stand quietly by when she realised there was something wrong with the way people with learning disabilities were being treated by society.

She set out to change it, and her legacy continues today.

The formidable Margaret Herbison didn’t care about glass ceilings.

She set out to shatter them, becoming Britain’s first Minister for Social Security and the first woman to be appointed Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

In increasingly fractured times, with a growing unease amongst most right-minded people about the way society treats the vulnerable and the voice-less, it is a relief to know that there are women like Adele and Isobel and Margaret who are standing up and speaking out.

2016 has been an unsettling year for most of us and the thought that someone who made so many misogynistic comments before and during his campaign to be American president is now about to take the job full-time is galling.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon took an online bashing when she admitted Trump’s election win was not the result she had hoped for, but I’m over the moon she spoke out.

Like Scottish Conservative and Scottish Labour leaders Ruth Davidson and Kezia Dugdale, she made no bones about her disappointment, echoing how many women feel.

Isn’t that what we want from our politicians? Plain speaking and honesty rather than hypocrisy disguised as diplomacy?

The women who have been finalists and winners of SWOTY come from very different backgrounds and have had very different life experiences.

But they all have one thing in common.

They have a good Scots tongue in their head, as your granny would say.

They know that it is only by speaking out against intolerance, or sexism, or racism, or speaking up for the vulnerable and the poor and the marginalised, that anything will change.